Short men come in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to dressing well, we're all familiar with some common frustrations (like pants being too long).
But other problems are body type specific, and it's important to understand how your individual build affects your style choices.
This post is for my short, stout and hefty brethren.
What exactly does stout mean, you ask? Hefty, portly, rotund, stocky, heavyset…you get the point.
This post isn't really geared toward the athletic body type, which features broad shoulders and a narrow waist.
Instead, this post is for the man whose torso is as wide or wider than his shoulders. You may have some extra weight around your mid-section, or you may be “built like a fire hydrant” as one reader put it.
Either way, I'll teach you how to dress in a way that flatters the stout body type.
Here's the deal, though: At just 5'6″ (in boots) and 125 lbs (soaking wet), I'm not a stout man. So I don't have personal experience with stout man problems.
But what I do have is lots of data – from you. I've received hundreds of emails from short-and-stout readers, their style pain points in great detail.
The biggest style problem short, stout men face is inconsistent fit. Clothes that fit okay on one part of your body fit terribly everywhere else.
Here are some examples:
- Pants that fit around your waist are way too long.
- Pants that fit in the seat and thighs are too wide and baggy around your calves and ankles.
- Shirts that fit around your stomach are too long to wear untucked.
- Shirts that fit up top (neck, shoulders, chest) are too big everywhere else (like the sleeves).
The list goes on, but you get the point. It's a problem of proportion. You can't find anything that really fits and flatters your specific build.
If it's the right length, it's too tight. If it's the right width, it's too long. Story of your life, right?
I'm going to give you three solutions to this problem, but first I want to cover some basic DOs and DON'Ts for the hefty man of modest height.
DOs and DON'Ts
DON'T wear baggy clothes to “cover up” your weight. It has the opposite effect.
Note: For the record, I think Cee Lo Green is a creative genius and one of the most talented performers of our time.
I also admire his openness about struggling with body image. I only chose this photo because it shows that baggy clothes aren't a good choice for stout men.
DON'T wear tight or skinny fit clothing.
DO wear fitted clothes that sit close to your body, and avoid excess fabric.
DON'T wear pants with too much taper through the leg (“skinny” fit).
DO wear pants with a gently tapered leg and slim leg opening (“slim-straight” fit).
DON'T wear low rise pants that sit below your belly.
DO wear mid or short rise pants that sit at your natural waist.
DON'T wear belts unless you have to (especially if they aren't comfortable).
DO wear pants with suspenders or side tabs when possible (can be more comfy).
DON'T wear big, bold patterns.
DO stick with solid colors and small scale patterns.
DO learn the rules for dressing taller than every shorter man should know.
Here's an example of two of my favorite modest men – Daymond John and Robert Herjavec – making it look easy:
Notice the impeccable fit, higher waistlines, small patterns, solid colors and proportionate details. These are some dapper sharks!
It's highly likely that their suits are bespoke because the truth is:
If you're short and stout, it's almost impossible to find clothes that fit properly off the rack.
Clothes simply aren't made for your build. Major retailers have chosen to ignore your segment of the population for logistical and economical reasons.
It sucks. Trust me, I feel your pain. But we can't change that, so let's talk about what we can do about it.
Here are three solutions:
#1: Get Your Clothes Tailored
Tailoring is the secret weapon of stylish men, especially those of us with non-average dimensions.
For short, hefty gents, tailoring is dually important. The question is which alterations are most important? It comes down to two factors:
- What can and cannot be fixed
- What different alterations cost
Luckily, you can learn all about that from the Clothing Alterations page. For now, I'll summarize what you need to know.
Shirts & Jackets – Find shirts that fit in the shoulders, neck and chest. Sleeves can be shortened, and the midsection can be taken in. But it's prohibitively difficult and expensive to alter the shoulders.
Pants & Shorts – Find pants that fit in the seat, crotch and thighs. Make sure the rise (distance from the top of the waistband to the bottom of the crotch) is okay.
Pants can be hemmed and tapered by any decent tailor, and adjusting the waist is just as easy. But it's much harder to fix the seat, hips and rise.
Your best strategy is to buy full cut clothes and get them taken in as needed.
#2: Shop Speciality Brands
There are a handful of small apparel companies catering to shorter men. I'm not talking about the “big and tall” section of the department store.
You can find a full list of these companies on this page:
These niche clothiers don't just chop a couple of inches off the bottom of mass manufactured pants and call it a day. They actually create new patterns from scratch with proportions that work for men under 5'9″.
Yes, you have to buy online (for the most part). Yes, it can be more expensive. And yes, it's totally worth it.
#3: Buy Custom Clothing
For dress shirts and suits, you might want to go custom. It's especially important for dress clothes to fit well, and the cost of alterations adds up quickly – especially for suits and jackets.
Whether you visit a bespoke tailor or order from online made-to-measure company, custom clothing requires effort and patience.
But for short, stout men, going custom is one way to achieve proper fit that isn't possible with off the rack clothing.
If there's one thing that will make you look and feel amazing, it's a high quality suit that fits your body perfectly.
#4: Pay Attention to Proportion
Broad, stocky men should avoid thin, dainty details like slim lapels and skinny ties. Compared to your breadth, these details and accessories will look too small, which makes you look wider.
Opt for normal lapels and neckties (around 3″ wide at their widest point). While we're on the topic, stay away from small tie knots like the four in hand. A half Windsor will look more natural against your neck and chest.
When choosing shirt collars, go for medium spread collars. They'll look great against a thicker neck, especially if you use a hefty tie knot.
Same goes for watches. If you have thick wrists and fingers, wear a watch that has some substance and weight to it. Anything smaller than 40mm might look comically small on your wrist.
Putting It All Together
When you pay attention to details and get everything right, the results are amazing. Here's a little inspiration from some short, stout, stylish men:
Pretty sharp, eh? Just goes to show that anyone can dress well, regardless of body type. It just takes effort.
There's a great lifestyle blog for bigger guys called Chubstr. It's run by a gentleman named Bruce Sturgell, who happens to be about 5'8″.
Chubstr isn't just for shorter guys like The Modest Man is, but there's a lot of overlap. It's definitely worth checking out!
Did I miss anything? Chime in by leaving a comment below!
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